By Jennifer Maerz
This morning we got what's probably the strangest tip ever at The Bold Italic: an anonymous person emailed in to say that they'd launched a campaign just last night where they're hiding cash all over San Francisco, including outside our office. "This will continue indefinitely. There is nothing commercial behind this. It is a social experiment," they wrote. "Our Twitter page will show people where the money is hidden. There are a few hundred dollars hidden last night already, and this will continue. We have two $100 bills hidden and some $20s." The person said they'd hit five spots last night and added a link to a Twitter account, @Hidden Cash, which shows photos of $100 bills being tucked under the key box at Yoga to the People and in an "abandoned phonebox" next to Sightglass.
Of course we thought this was some kinda crank campaign. But on the off chance that there is a generous benefactor hiding cash around town, I thought, what the hell – and wrote Hidden Cash back with some questions. They said they'd rather not give their name, but that they made a lot of money in Bay Area real estate. "I just made half a million dollars flipping one house," they wrote. Although they claim to have given generous amounts of money and volunteer hours to charities like East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, and local food banks like the SF Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Loaves and Fishes, as well as to international aid organizations such as Kiva, they are concerned with the huge wealth inequality in the Bay Area, and this random money-planting campaign is a way to playfully experiment with changing that.
"I've made millions of dollars the last few years, more than I ever imagined, and yet many friends of mine, and people who work for me, cannot afford to buy a modest home in the Bay Area," they wrote. "This has caused me quite a bit of reflection. I am determined to give away some of the money I make, and in addition to charity, to do it in fun, creative ways like this."
Hidden Cash plans to continue dropping bills around the city (and teasing the locations on Twitter) once or twice a week, "with no end in sight." They added that the more followers they get, the more cash they'll tuck into spots around town, and although the focus will be in San Francisco, they're considering expanding the experiment to Oakland and San Jose as well.
"This is my way of giving back to the community and also having fun. [I] was just kicking around ideas with a friend yesterday and we decided to start hiding a bunch of cash in different places around the city," they said, adding, "The bigger idea is just to give back, both financially and a sense of fun to the community that has made me wealthy."
As proof that this campaign isn't a prank, Hidden Cash gave me the two Hayes Valley locations where they hid the cash. "Unless someone took it, there should be $40 on the bottom side of the bike lock outside 34 Page St.," they wrote. "There's also money at Page and Octavia in an arugula pot." When we looked, there either wasn't any cash in the first place – or someone else grabbed it before we got there. Either way, I'm really hoping this Hidden Cash experiment is for real.
Follow the money and fun at Hidden Cash.
UPDATE: Since we broke this story on Friday, we've been contacted to do interviews with the BBC in London and CTV National News in Canada, and the story has been reposted on the Huffington Post, Engadget, and CNN Headline News. Hidden Cash's Twitter following has jumped from less than 50 at the time our story ran to over 150,000 followers – including an Oakland copycat, who emailed us yesterday, looking to get in on the game.
Photo from Hidden Cash
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